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Neuroscience Brown Bag Series

Thursday, February 14, 2019,

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  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 316

Chia-Chi Liao, PhD

Jamie Reed, PhD

Department of Psychology (Kaas Lab)

Vanderbilt University

Plasticity After Spinal Cord dorsal column Injury in Nonhuman Primates

Months after spinal cord dorsal column lesion (DCL) at the cervical level, neural responses in the hand representation of somatosensory area 3b hand cortex can recover, along with hand use. The Kaas lab has focused on the recovery process after spinal cord injury in monkeys with anatomical, physiological, and behavioral studies. Now we have extended our research to seek the gene expression changes that mediate recovery.We investigate multiple aspects of how this recovery occurs at different times after injury due to incomplete or complete DCL. Using neuroanatomical methods, we have found that incomplete DCL causes a large scale of connectional plasticity within and across stations of the somatosensory system, including the corticocortical, spinocuneate, and corticocuneate connections. These connections resemble the normal pattern, but may be somewhat reduced, in monkeys with the complete DCL. No obvious evidence suggests that plasticity occurs in the thalamocortical connections after injury. Based on the findings of systematic changes in the somatosensory system after spinal cord injury, we conducted a pilot study of gene expression in the spinal cord, cuneate nucleus of the brainstem, ventroposterior lateral nucleus of the thalamus, and area 3b somatosensory cortex. Our preliminary results suggest changes occur at every level when comparing control to injured at 2 weeks after DCL. At this (secondary subacute) phase, the spinal cord above the injury site showed the most gene changes, followed by the other stations in the pathway in ascending order (brainstem, thalamus, cortex). The gene expression changes in the brainstem cuneate nucleus lend support to the idea that plasticity at this level plays a main role in functional recovery. Further studies may help to target those gene expression changes that are critical for recovery throughout the somatosensory system. Investigating different recovery times may link the timing of connectional plasticity to the required gene expression changes that must occur for successful functional recovery.